COURTSIDE: Halilovic Arrival

Sefer Halilovic joins the growing number of high-ranking army officers in custody at The Hague.

COURTSIDE: Halilovic Arrival

Sefer Halilovic joins the growing number of high-ranking army officers in custody at The Hague.

Saturday, 29 September, 2001

The Hague tribunal last week saw the arrival of General Sefer Halilovic, the former commander of the Bosnian army, and, currently, a serving minister in the Federation government of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Halilovic arrived voluntarily 25 September 25, following the issue of an indictment against him two weeks earlier, relating to crimes committed against Bosnian Croats in the villages of Grabovica and Uzdol in 1993.

Halilovic is the latest high-ranking army officers to be indicted by The Hague. Indeed, the last two months, alone, have seen the number of generals held in the UN Detention Unit in Scheveningen double.

Aside from Halilovic, two fellow Bosnian army commanders, Generals Enver Hadzihasanovic and Mehmed Alagic, have also arrived recently in The Hague. Both are accused of crimes against Croat and Serb civilians in central Bosnia during 1993. Another recent arrival is Croatian General Rahim Ademi, who is charged with crimes against Serb civilians in the Medak pocket in 1993.

Halilovic stands accused of one count of violating the laws or customs of war, in accordance with Article 7 (3) of the Tribunal's Statute, relating to command responsibility. This relates to crimes committed in Grabovica and Uzdol during September 1993, when 60 Bosnian Croat civilians were killed.

The prosecution charges him with being Chief of Staff of the Bosnian army at the time, as well as commander of Operation Neretva 93, during which the killing took place. Halilovic is accused on the basis of "command responsibility": that is, for failing to prevent the crimes, or, after he had learnt of them, failing to punish the perpetrators.

In his first appearance before the judges on September 27, Halilovic claimed he "did not understand the indictment" and, then entered a plea of not guilty. In a statement made later by his defence counsel Faruk Balijagic, the defendant and his lawyer declared they would cooperate fully with the tribunal so that, in his counsels words, "Truth, whatever it might be, is established".

Indeed, there has already been fierce public debate in Bosnia about the responsibility for the murders in Grabovica and Izdol. As well as Halilovic himself, this argument has centred around Alija Izetbegovic, the former president of Boznia-Herzegovina, and General Rasim Delic, who replaced Halilovic as Bosnian army commander in 1993.

Halilovic's statement is seen to suggest that he will use the trial to air in public the dirty laundry of the political and military leaders of Bosnia's Muslims.

It is thought that during the trial, the defence will try to prove that Halilovic did not command Operation Neretva 93. Balijagic has also declared he will be lodging a formal objection to the indictment.

Mirko Klarin is IWPR senior editor for the war crimes tribunal and editor-in-chief of SENSE News Agency.

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